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On 14 October, the Waterworks Museum in Hereford once again became the focus for hot-air enthusiasts from across the UK for the annual Stirling Engine Rally, despite the best attempt of the British weather to prevent it. Heavy rain had caused wide spread flooding and travel chaos for exhibitors and visitors, and the Museum’s rear car-park was inaccessible due to flooding from the River Wye. Nevertheless, the Rally was a great success.

Members of the Stirling Engine Society brought many hot-air engines to display to Museum visitors, ranging from full-scale models, engines that powered model vehicles, through to the smallest of engines that appear to work by magic, powered only by the heat in the palm of your hand.

Developed from the original design of the Rev Robert Stirling in 1816, hot air engines had their heyday in the 1890’s, after the age of steam engines and before internal-combustion engines had become widely established. But the Stirling design is not just heritage engineering. The concept is still used today in powering submarines, solar electricity generation and, when operated in reverse to achieve low temperatures, in cooling devices in refrigeration and some MRI scanners.

This year, Museum volunteers were delighted to meet Moustafa Kinawy, a Stress Engineer from Rolls Royce and a Stirling engine 'modern-history' expert, who was overjoyed to find two unique 1967 Harwell Stirling linear-generator prototypes at the Museum. He knew about their history and told volunteers they are regarded as one of the most important post-1960 UK Stirling engine developments. Fuelled by propane, they were designed to provide electric power for lighthouse lamps and other devices requiring long duration light. However, the design didn't move beyond prototype stage, despite its technical success.

Notes for editors:
The Waterworks Museum in Hereford has the widest collection of hot air engines in the UK, including two full-size working Victorian engines, various model engines, as well as the two Harwell experimental engines. It has become a centre of excellence for the display, explanation and presentation of Stirling engines to the public.

The Weirdness of Water

On 24th October a large gathering of family, volunteers, members and close associates, met at the Waterworks Museum in Hereford at the invitation of Emeritus Chair Dr Noel Meeke MBE, who will shortly be stepping down from his formal roles at the Museum after two and a half decades as a Trustee and a Director.

Primarily a social event, a personal thank you for the support he has received over many years, Dr Meeke entertained his guests with an informal talk on the ‘weird and unique qualities of water’. This complex subject, which is of great personal interest to him and highly relevant for the Waterworks Museum, was wonderfully simplified and brought to life by an illustrated, and occasionally humorous, talk that entertained everyone in the audience, who ranged from school children to nonagenarians.

During his closing remarks, Noel Meeke referred to the vision of Stephen Southall who in 1960, as the Chairman of the Herefordshire Water Board, visited Broomy Hill Water Treatment Works and determined that the mothballed steam engines he saw should be preserved and that the water pumping station should one day become a Museum. The vision of Stephen Southall, who was the first Chairman and later President of the Waterworks Museum, continues to be supported today by his family charitable trust. In closing, Noel suggested that perhaps the Museum might think in future terms of enhancing its education provision to include the science of water.

In response, current Chairman, Richard Curtis, thanked Noel on behalf of all his invited guests for a very entertaining talk and for his hospitality - a very fine lunch organised by the volunteers in the Museum cafe. He went on to say: “I very much welcome that he has referred to the vision of Stephen Southall, for Noel has successfully developed Stephen’s vision over the past twenty years and more to establish the Waterworks Museum as one of the UK’s finest industrial heritage museums and a leading visitor attraction.”

At the end of his talk Noel Meeke was presented with a fine painting on behalf of Dŵr Cymru Welsh Water – a major benefactor of the Museum since its establishment 45 years ago, to recognise his personal contribution to the development of the Museum.

Dr Noel Meeke

Tom Packham (left), Estates Business Manager of Dŵr Cymru Welsh Water, presenting a painting of Craig Goch dam in the Elan Valley to Dr Noel Meeke.

‘Emma’ steams into new home

        Herefordshire Council’s steam road roller, Emma, has been formally entrusted to the Waterworks Museum in Hereford. The event, held on Sunday 30 September, was attended by the Chairman of Herefordshire Council, Cllr Brian Wilcox, and cabinet member transport and regulatory services, Cllr Barry Durkin. Herefordshire Council first took delivery of Emma, who…
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Museum Volunteers Win Prestigious Award

Two years ago, the Trustees of the Waterworks Museum were were very proud when the efforts of the Heritage Water Park team of volunteers were recognised and the project was declared the winner of the inaugural West Midlands Museum Development Volunteers Project Award. Today, the Trustees are thrilled to announce that this award has been…
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